When Introverts Grieve

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Introverts already have a hard time dealing socially with other people.  They can find their energy drained by interactions with other people, social situations, etc.  They recharge their batteries by withdrawing to solitude.   It doesn’t mean that introverts don’t like to engage socially with others, or try to avoid it like the plague.  It simply means that when they do socialize, it takes a lot out of them.  Therefore, introverts will not overwhelm their schedules with lots of plans.  They are very choosy about what they say yes to, and how often they say yes.  They are the most forgiving, of your friends, when you have to cancel.  They are very intentional with their time, and recognize that they need time off.

It would surprise many of friends to hear me say that I am an introvert… but it is the truth.  I’m very selective about my friends, cautious with my time, and can enjoy the complete silence of an empty house.  Even though when I AM out, I can talk your ear off and have a great time.

One of the most difficult times for an introvert, in my experiences, is when we are grieving.   Loss is hard on anyone, but for introverts it is also exhausting.  We appreciate your phone calls, messages, emails, cards, etc.  We are thankful for your offers of help and concern for our well being.   In dealing with death, we are already overwhelmed.  We are overwhelmed by our own emotions.  We are trying to navigate conversations with immediate and extended family members, hosting out of town guests, planning funeral or memorial arrangements.  We are making plans, writing obituaries, or having to think about what we will say at the funeral.  It’s a lot to contend with.

Then we are compounded by phone calls from well meaning people WHOM WE LOVE.  Truth is… introverts do not want to talk about what has happened any more than they have to.  We are not ready yet to answer questions or hear the same words over and over again.  It is NOT because we don’t want to talk to you right now.  It is because it is incredibly hard.  We just can’t do it.  Our conversations will be short, we may not have all of the answers to your questions yet, and frankly we may not even be emotionally or mentally ready to do so… and we need you to be okay with that.

So, how do you show an introvert you care?

Please do not just show up at our door, no matter how upset we are.  We need our solitude right now, and depending on who it was that passed away … we may need to cleave to our immediate family.  If we need someone to come and sit with us, trust me… we know we can call you.  We know you will be there. 

Dropping off meals is a sweet gesture, but we may not be up for the visit.  And I know you think you will just drop off and go… but we all know that a visit will happen.  If you feel like helping in this way, send a gift card for a local pizza place (even Little Caesars for $5.55 ready to go pizzas).  It doesn’t have to be an expensive meal.

Phone calls are a personal touch, but personal can be hard right now.  A quick text, a card in the mail, or an email w/o expectation of an immediate response is better.  It gives us time to respond when we are up to it.  Do not think that we see this gesture as cold or unsympathetic…. we appreciate it more than you realize.

Introverts cope differently than you would expect, the time we may need to lean on you may be weeks or months later, after the dust settles.  Be there for us then, pray for us now.

Introverts appreciate practicality and solutions during a time of grieving.  If you work for a hotel and can help us with discounted accommodations for family flying in to town, that is better than flowers or a meal.  With the recent passing of my Father In Law, there was a specific task that needed to be handled & we had no idea how to handle it.  I reached out to a friend and asked her help in the matter.  This to me was a relief that we didn’t have to navigate it alone, and that there was someone level headed doing the thinking for us.  

Finally, I would suggest offering specific help.  I’m just as guilty of saying to someone “Let me know if I can help in anyway”…. because we love that person, we want to help, but we don’t know how.  It’s a genuine offer.   However, having been on the other side of the situation, our brains don’t always know how to answer that question.  So instead of offering a blanket answer, offer what you know you can.   These are merely suggestions, and not applicable to our current situation:

  • Does your mother in law need someone to mow the lawn over the next few weeks?  My husband said he would be happy to come by.
  • Until things get settled, if anything needs fixing around the house, let the church know.  We’ll send our handy man to help you.
  • Since our kids go to school together, once you go back to work, I’m happy to pick your kids up from school until you can figure out a plan.
  • I’m happy to watch the kids when you guys have to make arrangements.  (Or – I’m happy to keep the kids while you are at the memorial/funeral, if that would make it easier for you.)
  • If you ever just don’t want to be alone, call me… I’ll bring the popcorn and the movies.

My husband and I were just talking tonight about this subject, a family friend called today (my Father in Law passed on Monday).  My husband appreciated that our friends have not been ringing our phone off the hook. It gives him time to process, and I knew exactly what he meant.  It also shows just how well people know us, because this is not a post of complaint.  Our friends have been absolutely amazing in giving us space and time as a family.

This post is just to share a little insight into the mind of the introverts in your life, when they are grieving.  KNOW that we love you.  We KNOW that you are thinking about us.  We KNOW that you care, and are willing to help.  Just know that more now than ever, we need that peace that comes from solitude, to re-energize ourselves for the heavy tasks ahead of us in the coming days and weeks.

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2 thoughts on “When Introverts Grieve

  1. I learned this in October when one of my husband’s best friends from childhood and adulthood passed away suddenly. They were texting in the morning, with the last one coming at 11:20am, and by dinner that night he had been killed in a motorcycle accident. They had been friends for over 40 years. Their parents still go to church together. He was the pastor who performed our wedding, and his daughters were our flower girls. He and his wife we were our best “couple friends”

    My husband is the consumate introvert. It has been nearly 5 months since the accident and my husband still hasn’t talked to me about his loss. My friend, who is too young to be a widow, is the ultimate extrovert and craved the company of friends. While I helped my close friend grieve her husband and helped my husband grieve his close friend I saw first hand the dichotomy of how they each are processing this sudden loss.

    This has served as a teaching tool for how to best help him when his own parents (who are in their late 70’s) pass . . .

    Praying for you and your family as you begin grieving the loss of your father-in-law.

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    1. Thank you for sharing and your prayers. It is such a different process and I want to help others understand. It isn’t always easy to articulate our feelings or needs in a way that doesn’t sound like: I love you, but leave me alone. Thankful that you were able to see that difference and how God will use that in your life in years to come.

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